Only lust and gluttony are worth a darn.
Since Daniel Craig took on the mantle of James Bond, the most famous cinematic spy of all time, the Vesper martini has been one of the most prevalent variants in pop culture. Going retro and reaching back to the first Bond novel, screenwriters Purvis, Wade and Haggis give Craig everything he needs to one-up his predecessors, at least as far as drink ordering is concerned.
In the original Casino Royale novel, Bond specifies--
"Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?" Bond eventually christens the drink, the Vesper, after the beautiful woman he falls in love with. Like its namesake, the drink is beautiful, seductive, and more than a little dangerous.
A particular alchemy comes into play with the Vesper. The mixed cocktail far exceeds the sum of its individual parts. Remember last week's vodka discussion? The "one part" vodka ups the strength of the drink without skewing the flavor profile. The substitution of Lillet for traditional vermouth swings things in a fruit direction, rather than a botanical one. If you mix to Bond's recipe, it's also quite a large drink.
I've tinkered with the concoction over the years and tried recipes from other places, but still adhere to the gin/vodka/Lillet core. One addition I took from the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia is the idea of an absinthe rinse in the glass, which adds a cold, bracing tang.
1 oz. Green Hat Gin
1 oz. Dogfish Head Jin
1 oz. Absolut Vodka
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
Dash Scrappy's Lime Bitters
1 t. Absinthe
Lemon Peel for garnish
Fill your cocktail glass with crushed ice and pour the absinthe over; swirl it in the glass to give the inside a coating rinse. In a shaker with ice, combine the rest of the ingredients, and shake furiously until the shaker itself is frosty. Dump the absinthe and ice from the well-chilled glass and strain the cocktail directly into it, garnishing with a twist of lemon.
When crafted well, this drink tastes like chilled air, liquid oxygen, and it's so bracing when it goes down, you just want to quaff more. All the components seem to blend into a sinuous coolness that defies description. It smells a little like tart citrus with a whiff of anise from the rinse, but the flowery Green Hat and the Vanilla-tinged Dogfish Head merge with the Lillet to deliver something you have no right to expect.
The danger with this drink, of course, is that it's quite large by cocktail standards (and you'll notice I eliminate 1 full part of gin) and you can just keep drinking them. Like Vesper herself, you can get yourself into deep trouble very quickly. She'll double-cross you with a wicked hangover. After an evening of drinking these on my spacious porch, one iron-livered friend of mine put it the next morning, "I now understand what the phrase 'reeks of gin' means."
Next week - Ingredients Matter